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Chats, Influencing, Interpersonal skills, People Skills, Psychology, Uncategorized, Work skills

Why Building Rapport is SO Important

Under normal circumstances, when you want to make a request for someone to do something for you and you get on well with them, you tend to have a chat with them before you ask them for what you want. Then your request flows naturally out of your conversation with them. With people you do not like or who you do not know, you often do not bother to do this.

However, taking time to get to know people or find out more about them on a personal level through building rapport and superficial conversation ‘oils the wheels’ of social interaction. If you only learn and apply this one skill and none of the others outlined in this book, you would find your confidence increase significantly.

Building rapport works on many levels. When done successfully, it gives you so many more choices. It enables you to walk into a room of complete strangers and be relaxed about striking up a conversation with any of them, whoever they are. It also lets you know when it is a good time to approach people and when to back off or come back later.

When it comes to making social conversation, people are all different. Some people live in a world that I might find superficial and only want to talk about football, golf, shoes or shopping. Others only relax when they feel comfortable with people. Some people think that if they are not talking about world peace, they are not having a meaningful conversation. Social conversation is a great leveller; it opens up your choices of interaction and increases your ability to build rapport and influence people substantially. If you exclude people who are not like you from your circle of influence, you will be excluding a vast proportion of the population. Given the opportunity – and approached in the right way – these people may want to get to know you better and to assist you in achieving your goals.

Another reason to be able to employ the full spectrum of conversational skills is that if you only like deep and meaningful conversation (and plenty of people do), you significantly limit the range of people and situations in which you will feel relaxed and confident. Suppose you met someone socially and you thoroughly enjoy your engagement with them at a deep level. You feel stimulated by your discussion and you look forward to seeing them another time. The problem arises when you meet that person again. It could be embarrassing and somehow inappropriate to restart the conversation where you left off. Social conversation enables you to re-engage with that person at an appropriate place, so that you can find a comfortable level for both of you again as soon as possible.

Many people are very resistant to learning to build rapport, because they dislike superficial conversation. If you are one of those, let me try to persuade you to learn this skill. If you only like meaningful conversation, you will not be able to include in your circle of influence all those people who only engage in meaningful conversation once they are relaxed with you. Equally, the people who mostly like to talk about what was on TV last night or who won the football at the weekend, just prefer to live in a more superficial world whereas you might prefer to live in a deeper one.

Two people in particular influenced my thinking on this. Both were on my courses at separate times. I noticed how they could charm other course members and get them talking. Curious and interested, I asked them how they did this. One said, ‘I was a hairdresser and you just have to find a way of quickly connecting with your clients’ and the other simply said, ‘My mother taught me’. These replies made me realise that the charm displayed by these two people was a skill that could be learnt. I asked them what they did to build rapport. What struck me was that both of them were very conscious of using this skill. They believed that everyone had something that they really loved to talk about and the art was to find that seam of passion. So they believed that it is possible to make a connection with everyone, you just have to find that place of connection.

‘Oh,’ but I hear you say, ‘ I am just not interested in people’s holidays and families and I just can’t make myself appear interested.’ I know you might be saying that, because I have heard the same response so many times. I used to be very much like that too, until I discovered the fascinating experience of building rapport. If you are one of those people who dislikes social conversation, the skill is to learn to love the process, not the content – to realise that it is possible to develop the skills which enable you to build that bridge between you and another person.

I believe we are social animals, living in an increasingly dehumanising society. If you do not agree with me, look at call centres or using websites or texting, instead of meeting someone face-to-face or using the phone. Given these changes in the way we interact these days, is it any wonder that when people ask us an ‘off script’ question about ourselves, we might hesitate to say something real and meaningful, unless we are really sure that they want to know? So you might have to try a few times to build rapport before the other person genuinely believes that you are interested in them and what they have to say

The strange thing is that once you are able to make a connection with someone, they will find it energising to talk about things they find of interest. You may then begin to get more interested in them and what they have to say even at a superficial level.

For more information on assertiveness, influencing (including building rapport), negotiation, conciliation, taking a stand and making peace in a step-by-step manner please refer to the People Skills Revolution and the People Skills Revolution Handbook published by Global Professional Publishing.

Please note: The information contained in this blog is copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the prior permission of the author who can be contacted through her website at solutionsunlimited.co.uk.


4 thoughts on “Why Building Rapport is SO Important

  1. Most of the time, when you ask someone to do something, it’s because it’s their job to do it for you. Whether you like each other, what you have to do, when you have to do it or how it’s done is irrelevant. So why is rapport relevant? The rule is do what you’re told, when you’re told, how you’re told,so why bother building rapport?

    Posted by chimpo | May 8, 2014, 5:06 pm
    • Hello there, Thank you for your comment. It’s an interesting question. I believe that building rapport is the first and most important step in influencing others – because people do things for people they like and they like people who take the trouble to get to know them. Building rapport with them is the best way to do this. I believe that everyone can influence regardless of where they are in the organisational hierarchy or social context. Learning to do this is enjoyable – not just in work but in our personal lives and it seems to make the biggest single difference to people feeling much more confident. It allows them to walk into any situation regardless of seniority or context and be able to strike up a conversation with people. Hope this answers your question.

      Posted by pamelamilne | May 9, 2014, 4:27 pm
      • Thanks. In very hierarchical organisations, my experience is that this isn’t the case. You can walk up to and talk to people far above your station, but it will have no influence. Influence is about power. Only about power. Irrespective of the rapport, the underlying text is always “what do you bring to the table?”, and unfortunately if the answer is “rapport”, you will be ignored. If you’re lucky, you’ll be politely ignored, but ignored just the same. You’ve had a pleasant conversation, but because you don’t have any power or impact, rapport is irrelevant. And on the other hand, the people with no rapport but with power and money get the attention.

        Posted by Mitch K | May 25, 2014, 10:20 pm
      • Good morning Mitch

        Actually you are right that building rapport in itself is not enough. It’s the first step. When you have built rapport they will almost say something like ‘you have not just come to see me about the weather (or to discuss the football at the weekend), what do you want?’. At this point lots of people make the mistake of making their request, when in fact they should take the time to ‘Establish their credibility’ which means giving some background to yourself which could be your experience, your skills, your background knowledge or from your role which would demonstrate why they should listen to you or in other words demonstrated your power base (and yes we do all have them). Once you have done this bit with a sense of style they are likely to say something like ‘ok ok I get the idea what do you want?’ or if they don’t you can introduce this yourself in a subtle way. At this point you are free to make your request but you should ensure that the request is simple, straightforward, will not involve them in much extra work, might even give them some kudos and can be answered with a simple yes or no. Once you have achieved your ability to influence I also suggest that you thank the person for their assistance or provide any additional information which you have offered in the interaction to create a positive atmosphere for the next time you meet them.

        I also suggest that people revisit their negative beliefs before learning some of these skills. In other words you have to believe that there is a possibility of this approach working for you before you start to use it.

        I have seen this approach (a step by step approach to influencing and not just building rapport) work so many times where people achieve goals in a very short space of time that previously they did not think possible and in very hierarchical organisations too.

        Posted by pamelamilne | May 26, 2014, 9:57 am

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